I love youth theatre. I’ve seen a fair bit in the past couple of years and however much I enjoy professional and amateur productions, youth theatre is where it begins.

I’d not heard of Back to the 80s before but being (Ahem!) a certain age, the tunes were familiar to me. I’d also not had any experience so far of Birmingham Youth Theatre but on the night, was not disappointed.

Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 2018

Back to the 80s is a coming of age, feelgood romp set in the senior year of William Ocean High School (nice pun) and told retrospectively through the narrative of Corey Palmer Senior (Callum Byrne). Characters are split into the familiar which you would relate to from any school experience. We had the regular kids, the cool guys (Were they ever really cool in our school days?), the popular girls, the outcasts and the teachers. With a decent script from Neil Gooding, the show is brought to life immediately with Kids in America. Okay, I was sold, and suddenly seventeen again.

And the numbers kept coming: Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Let’s Hear it for the Boy, Footloose, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), Total Eclipse of the Heart, Material Girl, Get Outta My Dreams (Get into My Car) and The Final Countdown. These were just a selection which made Back to the 80s such a blast. Ending the night, we had I’ve Had the Time of My Life, a song which has never been a favourite of mine, but one perfect to finish on. Also, strangely, another song which I openly dislike, ended being my top tune in We Are the World.

Founded in 1987, Birmingham Youth Theatre stage two shows a year, featuring talent up to 19 years of age. And talent was very much on view. What impressed me most was that nobody was left out. Everyone appeared to have dialogue and more importantly, solo lines during the songs. All delivered in great style.

Playing the lead role of Callum Junior was Dylan Mulholland who turned in a fine performance. Equally so were Sam Cox (Mr Cocker), Georgia Taylor (Miss Brannigan), Cameron Simpson (Billy), Zak Hayes (Michael), Anna Simpson (Cyndi), Harry Chamberlain (Fergal) and Maddison Clarke (Tiffany). However, those were the principles. I never normally stretch as far as naming an entire cast, but the whole of BYT deserve it, so I will. This includes: Sydney Pope (Mel), Wiktoria Matysiak (Kim), Molly Ewins (Laura), Abbie Hudson (Debbie), Kishan Sambhi (Alf), Daniel Bromley (Kirk) and Holly-Mae Nelson (Eileen). In the chorus, we had Saran Sambhi, Abigail Guest, Abi Shiriane and Karina Galloway. Lastly, a special mention to the lad who appeared to be the youngest member; Dylan-Jak O’Dwyer who portrayed several comic mini characters including Yoda, Mr Miagi and Mario.

In charge of production we had Adam Swift (Director), Chris Corcoran (Musical Director) and Sam Depper (Choreography).

After the curtains closed I was, as often, the solitary sole applauding the band’s play-out music (Everyone always forgets the band). And I could hear from the stage the cries of “We are BYT! We are BYT!” Something to be proud of, indeed.


Back to the 80s – Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham – 9 June 2018

Cheers.

Antony N Britt.

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